Book Recommendation: Circling the Sun


“…[W]e sat that way for hours. Long enough for me to feel my own density settle more and more completely into the chalky dust. Aeons had made it, out of dissolving mountains, out of endlessly rocking metamorphosis. The things of the world knew so much more than we did and lived them more truly. The thorn trees had no grief or fear. The constellations didn’t fight or hold themselves back, nor did the translucent hook of the moon. Everything was momentary and endless. This time…would fade, and it would last forever.” Paula McLain, Circling the Sun

From the Publisher

Paula McLain, author of the phenomenal bestseller The Paris Wife, now returns with her keenly anticipated new novel, transporting readers to colonial Kenya in the 1920s. Circling the Sun brings to life a fearless and captivating woman—Beryl Markham, a record-setting aviator caught up in a passionate love triangle with safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton and Karen Blixen, who as Isak Dinesen wrote the classic memoir Out of Africa.

Brought to Kenya from England as a child and then abandoned by her mother, Beryl is raised by both her father and the native Kipsigis tribe who share his estate. Her unconventional upbringing transforms Beryl into a bold young woman with a fierce love of all things wild and an inherent understanding of nature’s delicate balance. But even the wild child must grow up, and when everything Beryl knows and trusts dissolves, she is catapulted into a string of disastrous relationships.

Beryl forges her own path as a horse trainer, and her uncommon style attracts the eye of the Happy Valley set, a decadent, bohemian community of European expats who also live and love by their own set of rules. But it’s the ruggedly charismatic Denys Finch Hatton who ultimately helps Beryl navigate the uncharted territory of her own heart. The intensity of their love reveals Beryl’s truest self and her fate: to fly.

Set against the majestic landscape of early-twentieth-century Africa, McLain’s powerful tale reveals the extraordinary adventures of a woman before her time, the exhilaration of freedom and its cost, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

My Recommendation

If I hadn’t loved McLain’s THE PARIS WIFE, I still would have picked up CIRCLING THE SUN based on the cover alone: so warm it glows with the heat of the African sun, moody with the distant silhouette of the acacia tree, and the brooding woman with bobbed hair wearing slacks and riding boots when women didn’t typically wear slacks. The cover could enfold a Hemingway story–something Kilamanjaro-esque–and my high expectations were met in every way.

Set in Kenya in the 1920s, CIRCLING THE SUN represents the best in historical fiction. It tells the tale of a little known corner of history in beautiful, vivid prose that not only enlivens the period, but will send the reader searching for more information on the people and places depicted in its pages.

Like Hadley Hemingway in THE PARIS WIFE, the protagonist of CIRCLING THE SUN, Beryl Markham, is a complicated woman. Unlike Hadley, however, Beryl takes bold charge of her own destiny. Her decisions are sometimes selfish, often honorable, and occasionally deplorable, but Beryl’s strength of spirit, honesty, and courage redeem her.

Fans of period fiction, family drama, and tragic love stories will be mesmerized by CIRCLING THE SUN. I give it my highest recommendation.


4 thoughts on “Book Recommendation: Circling the Sun

  1. Loved this book too, Erika. The descriptions of Africa were exquisite. And Beryl is deliciously complicated.

  2. lomaurice says:

    I knew you would love this amazing novel. I was entranced by it. It is going to be so big.

  3. drbethnolan says:

    I loved it. I have always found Beryl Markham fascinating!

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